Gov. Doug Ducey took issue with President Donald Trump’s new policy of limiting green cards for poorer immigrants.
The Trump administration on Monday announced a new policy that, beginning on Oct. 15, will allow immigration officials to deny green cards and permanent legal status to legal immigrants if the government believes they’re likely to require assistance such as food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.
The new policy will likely favor more highly skilled and highly educated immigrants.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ducey said he favored a more balanced approach that continued to leave the door open for all kinds of immigrants, not only those who are educated and skilled. He called legal immigration “one of the magical things about our country and our economy.”
“I don’t know all the details of the reform, but like I said, I want to see a balanced approach. So, it can’t just be about people at the top. It’s got to also be about service workers and entry-level workers,” Ducey said. “I want to see people who will climb the economic ladder. I think that many of us have a family story similar to that. We have the haves and the soon-to-haves. And both of them are part of the proper immigration reform.”
In his moves to crack down on both legal and illegal immigration, Trump has touted the need for a more merit-based immigration system. In 2018, he famously questioned why the United States admitted so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti and various African nations.
Ducey also took issue with a recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that targeted six agricultural plants in Mississippi. The Aug. 7 raids led to the arrests of 680 immigrants who were in the country illegally, and was the largest single-state raid in U.S. history.
While emphasizing that he wants people to follow immigration laws and lauding Trump’s focus on border security, Ducey said immigration authorities should focus primarily on criminals, not people working to support their families.
“I’d like to see us prioritize criminals, drug cartels, human traffickers, child sex traffickers. I think that would be the best use of federal law enforcement and state and local law enforcement,” the governor said. “What I’d like to see in terms of raids and law enforcement is a prioritization of the bad guys.”
Ducey said he wants to see federal immigration reform and expressed hope that Congress will take action on the issue.
In the wake of the Mississippi raids, many critics have questioned why immigration laws are being vigorously enforced against low-income workers but not on the employers who hire undocumented labor.
Asked whether there should be more enforcement against companies that hire illegal immigrants, Ducey noted that Arizona requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system, which allows people to check whether a job applicant is legally permitted to work in the U.S.
“At the same time, I don’t know that an employer has to be an expert in immigration law. If somebody wants to work, you should have the ability to hire them,” he said.
On the campaign trail and in office, Ducey was critical of President Barack Obama for what he deemed lax border security. But he also came into office in 2015 vowing to improve Arizona’s relations with Mexico, who had been frayed since the state in 2010 enacted Senate Bill 1070, which mandated local enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The governor has focused his immigration policy more on border security than on street-level enforcement against people who were in the country illegally, particularly with the creation of a Border Strike Force within the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Ducey has been outspoken in his support for some of Trump’s border security initiatives, including his long-promised wall along the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, and even backed the president in his threat to close off the border, despite the economic damage such a move would likely inflict on Arizona.
Ducey also supported Trump’s deployment of National Guard troops along the border.